Mission: Malawi 2016
By Gary Fallesen
Climbing For Christ
- CLICK HERE for our Trip Report: “Hungry bodies and hopeful souls.”
Sunday, March 13
One of the widows we met in hot-and-humid southern Malawi spoke about wrestling with anger amidst her plight. We felt anger, too, as we returned to the land of plenty from the majority world, where need is a constant companion.
We talked about it throughout a mission in which we were blessed to serve as Jesus’ hands and feet. (“You put your feet on and go,” brother Damson, our missionary in East and southern Africa, said in translation when Hayley told a group of mothers what we, as Christians, are all called to do.) Anger at the excess we see at home. Anger at the abject poverty we experienced in one of the planet’s poorest places. Anger at the injustice of this world between the haves and the have-nots.
A widower (long-sleeve shirt) receives a mat to sleep on during our Project 1:27 distribution. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)
Women told us about going to a man’s home in one of the villages. He is very old and lives alone. In these houses, the dirt floors must have fresh soil packed down regularly. (Pause on that thought for one moment. Fresh soil for your floor.) This man’s house had not been “cleaned” for three years. “The floor was full of potholes,” said one of the women who helped clean this house.
His floor was full of potholes!
And he slept on that floor. He didn't even have a mat, until we were blessed to provide one for him.
When the man saw his “cleaned” house with the smooth dirt floor, he wept. “What happened?!” the man exclaimed. “This is God.”
We tried to imagine such a simple faith, such an expression of thanksgiving for a thing that seems to us beneath the dignity of man. It leaves you wrestling with your thanklessness.
When our team was served our first meal on the flights home, we rejoiced. A small piece of cheese, a roll with butter, a selection of airline food, which – let’s be honest – isn’t the greatest cuisine. But in that moment it was a feast. “It shouldn't be this good,” Hayley said as she relished her fish and mashed potatoes.
In that moment we appreciated what we had. But how quickly will we lose that sense of gratitude? How soon before our sense of entitlement returns?
The widows and widowers organized by Damson after receiving aid from C4C.
Our prayer from Mission: Malawi 2016 is to remember those who lack, those who feel unloved and unwanted, those who shared their desperation and their anger with us – so others might see. May the faces of the least of these haunt us all until we do something about it.
“But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him.” – 1 John 3:17 (ESV)
Saturday, March 12
We begin traveling back to the States this morning.
Friday, March 11
Mothers and babies. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)
We returned to the new Mothers & Babies Clinic in Singano to meet with 70-80 women, most bearing young children, and share some small gifts from the baggage that had arrived late from our flight last week from Johannesburg, South Africa.
Elaine, Michele and Hayley each spoke words of encouragement. Elaine reminded them to train up their children, as she has done, in the way they should go and when they are older they will not depart from the LORD (Proverbs 22:6). Hayley prayed that they would be mothers like her own and that one day they would thank them for raising them in Christ.
This was Elaine and Hayley’s first mother-daughter mission trip with Climbing For Christ, though both have been on numerous missions with C4C and they have done mission work in the States with our church. It was a blessing to watch them serving together.
It also was a pleasure to watch the mothers at the clinic react to what they were told and to what they received: small gift bags containing toothpaste and toothbrushes for them and their children, as well as a new basketball. That prompted our second netball exhibition on clinic grounds. We also got to watch many of the same women play on Mission: Malawi 2014.
The women at the new Mothers & Babies Clinic put on a netball exhibition with a basketball delivered by our team.
I needed to drive our missionary Damson and his 2-year-old son Koinonia to a hospital in a neighboring district so the sick child could be examined and treated. At the same time, Pastor Duncan was gone most of the day to attend to one of his children, who is away at boarding school and had contracted malaria. Another reminder of the realities of this place.
We finished our time with the children at the orphanage later in the day, when gifts were given to each one. Throughout the week, every child has received a card or note along with a photo from his or her sponsor, which was to remind them that they are loved.
The children sang Leeland’s “The Great Awakening” one more time and reviewed the lessons of the week – from David to Esther to Joseph to Jesus – and were reminded by Elaine that God also has a plan and a purpose for their lives.
Each child has been asked on at least two occasions this week: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Answers range from nurse to police to one who wants to be a pastor and another who wants to be president.
Several of the children are among the best students in their respective classes. But continuing on to gain a higher education is difficult in Malawi. The children need our prayers. There are also outside forces constantly at work against those growing in the faith. The church is always under attack in this harsh world.
Orphans receiving new Bibles.
To arm the children for the spiritual war, we presented Bibles in Chichewa to those 13 orphans who hadn’t yet received them before saying goodbye for now.
“…and take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” – Ephesians 6:17 (ESV)
Thursday, March 10
A woman talks about how the lives of widows and widowers are being transformed through the group Damson started in Msema. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)
We were among the least of the least of these, 89 widows and widowers, who looked weary and heavy laden, as if life had run them over and left them for dead. “If my life was like in the past,” one elderly woman told us, “I would drink a poisonous drink and die.”
This was the capital of Despair, found in the village of Msema in sun-scorched southern Malawi. This may be where the poorest in one of the world’s poorest nations call home.
We were meeting with the people in our missionary Damson Samson’s new project – the other half of Project 1:27, based on James 1:27 (“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”). He started a weekly Bible study/support with 25 of these distressed folks after CHRISTmas 2015. It quickly expanded in number. This morning, our team was blessed to offer them encouragement and then a little relief: sleeping mats for 13 people and small bags of maize flour and soya for everyone in attendance.
“God has covered me and I am safe,” said the woman who thought of poisoning herself. “God has blessed me and I will live. I sleep as a baby with no more worries.”
We witnessed miracles today:
- We watched the sadness of world-weary faces turn into expressions of joy and thanksgiving. And all we were providing cost a little more than US$200.
- Across the dirt road, at Pastor Duncan’s Searchlight Ministries’ church at Msema, 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of maize were being given out to each family in the 170-member congregation.
- Back in Migowi, at Duncan’s church plant, a 50-kilogram (110-pound) bag of maize was shared by every three people among the 200 who attended the Thursday afternoon Bible study. It was a loaves-and-fish moment, where the long lines appeared to be greater than the stack of maize sacks, but when all the people had gone there remained several bags left over.
- In the evening, Pastor Felix Namame from the Searchlight church Climbing For Christ funded to build in nearby Mozambique, was handed US$1,000 to take back across the border for food for his 180-member congregation.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” said the always-smiling Felix, who rode his bicycle along dirt roads for five hours to see us again. “This is a miracle.”
Damson, kneeling above, with those who received mats to sleep on instead of a dirt floor. Below, 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of maize is weighed out for each family at the church at Msema.
Pastor Duncan, left, in white shirt, speaks to members of the church at Migowi before distributing 50-kilogram (110-pound) bags of maize.
God provided about US$7,500 through Climbing For Christ members in the U.S. and Canada to feed the hungry we were divinely appointed to encounter on Mission: Malawi 2016. We not only were blessed to offer them food for their empty stomachs – the result of a year of weather misery, from floods in January 2015 to drought during the current growing season – but the Bread of Life.
I shared a message, “You are loved,” at the widows meeting and at the Bible study, based on verses from God’s love letter to us – the Bible. These included 2 Thessalonians 2:16, John 3:16, Deuteronomy 7:8, Ephesians 2:4-8, and Psalm 142.
“God is your refuge,” I said. “He is the One watching over you. He will provide for you. He loves you. You ARE loved!
“How do I know this? His Word tells us, and He sent us here to show you His love.”
That love included the delivery of much-needed food staples. The people – a people who have cried out to God in their need – shouted for joy and danced with thanksgiving in their hearts. Rarely have we seen such a response to a teaching from God, such an outpouring of emotion from His provision.
“This has been life-transforming,” another of Damson’s widows declared. “We used to worry. We used to sit in our houses and worry about what will happen. Now we are encouraged.”
Words cannot express how humbling it is to be the messenger of this good news. Or even to share the Good News about Jesus that Elaine taught our Project 1:27 orphans in Migowi in the midst of all this relief work. She taught about Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) and how God had a plan for his life just as he had for David, Esther and Joseph, the subjects of the previous three days’ teachings by Elaine, Michele and Hayley.
“And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house… For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’” – Luke 19:9-10 (ESV)
He came for every man and every woman, no matter where they might be geographically or spiritually. He came to give rest to those weary and heavy laden (Matthew 11:28). And He sends us so others will know or be reminded, especially in the midst of trials and tribulations.
“Now when someone asks me what will happen,” a widow shared, “I say: ‘God will take care of it.’”
Wednesday, March 9
Unloading the first truckload of maize (more than 2 tons worth) at Pastor Duncan’s church in Migowi. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)
Damson Samson and his wife, Sellina, who is the sister of Pastor Duncan, invited us to dinner at their house this evening. It was a special treat – for the Samsons and for us. We enjoyed fellowship, food, and allowed Damson to share stories about the orphans (who he has helped care for since Far & Wide Children’s Home opened) as well as the villages in this part of southern Malawi.
We are speaking Thursday to the widows that our missionary to East (and southern) Africa has taken under his wing in recent months – a real extension of Project 1:27, which is based on James 1:27 (“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”). Damson has taken to heart these words as he has felt burdened to be the son most of the widows have never had.
“How can we live like this? Animals live like this,” Damson said in telling how many of the widows he’s come to meet sleep on dirt floors with no mattress or even a mat. One, who died recently after he was able to share Jesus with her, lived in a house with no door.
The children of these women have grown and left them alone.
“I told them, ‘I am your son now,’” Damson said. “I just want to see them smile. They are dying before they are dead.”
It seems many, including the disabled who are treated by some parents as a curse rather than a blessing, are among the walking dead in this dirt-poor country. We are blessed to be here to lift them up. On Thursday, we will deliver food to hundreds of families – thousands of hungry people – when we meet, first, with Damson’s widows and then Duncan’s two Malawi churches. By the end of the day, part of the more than US$7,000 in food relief will have been distributed by our God-praising Mission: Malawi 2016 team.
Dayson, right, stands to answer a question about Joseph from Damson and Hayley, left, during our time with the orphans.
At the same time, our team continues to teach the children who are supported by Climbing For Christ’s Project 1:27. Hayley took her turn in teaching the week-long lesson on “God’s-plan-and-purpose-for-your-life,” which today covered the story of Joseph.
There also was more singing and playing with our 15 kids (the others are away at boarding school). While many may be dying in Malawi, we know the children at the orphanage are alive and well thanks to what He is providing them through our many sponsors in the U.S. and Canada.
Tuesday, March 8
Damson, upper left, with 26 members of the new Mulanje Massif Chapter. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)
I shared the vision of Climbing For Christ and, in particular, the new Mulanje Massif Chapter to our first 26 members – nine guides and 17 porters who work on the mountain in southern Malawi. We talked about how C4C missionary Damson Samson would disciple them and help each man with his walk as well as teach the chapter how to evangelize at work. The group was responsively energetic as I spoke about how we were doing this in Tanzania (Kilimanjaro Chapter) and that the Lord had led Damson to meet with these men last month to explore similar possibilities closer to his home.
When it came time for feedback from the men, porter Peter (“Pitalo” in Chichewa) Mauzi stood to respond. “When we get to camp we sit around and tease and joke with one another,” he said. “This leads to disagreements and fights. Instead of teasing, when we get to camp we should share the Word of God with our brothers.”
The group seemed to catch our vision with a singular purpose because there was more positive feedback, almost to the man, after I shared my testimony and a message, “Who gets the credit?”
“I planted the seed … but God has been making it grow.” – 1 Corinthians 3:6 (NIV)
“We must submit that God does the work,” I told them. “Growth and any success we achieve should simply fill us with gratitude for what God is doing. God is ‘making it grow.’ As Jesus said in John 15:5, ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.’”
The Mulanje Massif. (Photo by Hayley Fallesen)
While Damson, Hayley (who thanked the Mulanje Massif Chapter members for allowing her in the “all-boys club”) and I were meeting with guides and porters on the mountain, Michele and Elaine were traveling with Duncan to Blantyre to retrieve one of our five duffels that missed the Saturday flight from Johannesburg, South Africa. Everything is in-country now, which will allow us to finish the week well.
When the six of us reconnected back in Migowi, we spent more time with our Project 1:27 orphans. Michele showed them how to make sheep out of marshmallows and pretzels and then, more importantly, taught the 15 children with us today about Esther. This was part 2 of the “God’s special plan for your life” series. Esther was, appropriately, an orphan who became a queen and saved her people. What does God have in store for these children who are sponsored by Climbing For Christ members in the U.S. and Canada?
After that, we showed them the “You Won’t Let Go” music video from Mission: Malawi 2014 and they continued practicing this year’s song, “The Great Awakening.”
Damson, above left, with Michele making marshmallow-and-pretzel sheep with the orphans, including Dixson and Catherine, right. Below, our team enjoys the Mission: Malawi 2014 music video with the children, Pastor Duncan, Damson and Willi. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)
“These who have turned the world upside down…” – Acts 17:6 (NKJV)
Monday, March 7
We were honored to dedicate the new Mothers & Babies Centre in Singano in front of a crowd of about 1,000 people, and deliver more than 1,650 pounds of maize and 1,200 pounds of rice and beans to 150 women who use the clinic. “They are very happy,” Duncan said after the event. “They will eat tonight.”
The crowd included the village chief and doctors from the Ministry of Health, who demonstrated the importance of giving the children medicine and vitamins.
The clinic was a rescue project for Climbing For Christ. We provided US$3,200 through C4C Canada to finish a stalled building effort. There is no hospital in this district so the clinic could serve to save and improve the health of countless women and children.
As part of this grand opening, we decided to provide US$850 in food for the women most active in the Mothers & Babies Centre from five neighboring villages. The funding came from God through Michele and fellow Board member Steve Quakenbush.
Each team member addressed the mothers directly because they have been an inspiration to us and serve as an example of what the church is called to do: give selflessly and demonstrate sacrificial love.
Team members, above, help prepare 150 bags of food each containing 11 pounds of maize and 8 pounds of rice and beans. Michele, below, dishes out the rice. Bottom, this added up to a truckload of food for hungry families. (Photos by Elaine and Gary Fallesen)
Gary got the joyous honor of cutting the ribbon with Duncan. (Photo by Elaine Fallesen)
Hayley, with Damson, asked the mothers to raise their hands and then told them how they inspire her as a young woman. Below, Elaine encourages the mothers to raise their children in Jesus. (Photos by Elaine and Gary Fallesen)
Later in the day, we met with our orphans back in Migowi and began teaching them a new song (Leeland’s “Great Awakening”) and the first lesson in a week-long series Elaine has prepared on how God has a special plan and purpose for our lives. She opened with the story of David and Goliath and how God raised up a shepherd boy-who-would-be-king to slay a giant.
May God raise up a generation of believers in Malawi who can defeat the giants in the lives of these people – poverty, hunger and disease. We were sent to do our part: encouraging the found, reaching the lost, and providing (among other things) food for the hungry. Climbing For Christ and C4C Canada have delivered more than US$6,600 so far to Searchlight Ministries to feed the hundreds of starving families in Duncan’s churches in southern Malawi and Mozambique.
Sunday, March 6
I confess I have never preached and felt like I was on the Stairmaster. But sweat dripped off me like an NBA player standing at the free-throw line as I shared a message, “Don’t Give Up!,” with the second of two Malawi churches in Searchlight Ministries. There were 400-500 people jammed into a secondary school classroom that was Africa hot. But what a blessing it was to deliver a message based on a Rick Warren (Saddleback Community Church) teaching that Climbing For Christ member and Project 1:27 Malawi sponsor Michael Kaiser had emailed us before coming here. Perspiration and all.
“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” – 2 Corinthians 4:17 (NLT)
Hayley, right, is introduced to the church at Msema. (Photo by Elaine Fallesen)
We began the day at Pastor Duncan’s original church in Msema, where C4C missionary Damson Samson translated for me as we gathered with more than 100 brothers and sisters in Christ. Later in the morning, Duncan translated as I shared again at his larger, 2-month-old church plant in Migowi.
Elaine, Michele and Hayley spent several hours in the afternoon helping to teach Sunday School for about 120 children associated with the Migowi church. Elaine taught the simple Gospel message in color blocks: yellow (creation), black (sin), red (blood of Jesus), white (purified), and green (new creation). Michele read the Lord’s Prayer with them in their native tongue. We focused on encouraging these other members of the body of Christ as they face the many difficulties found in this poor, drought-stricken country.
Elaine teaching God’s story from creation to new creation. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)
We then met with 17 of the orphans sponsored through Project 1:27. They are all 2 years older, taller, more mature – ranging in age from 8 to 17 – and excited to see familiar faces. This is my fourth visit, Elaine’s third and Michele’s second. We spent a couple hours with them, getting updated on their ages, their year in school, and things like favorite color, food, class, sport, etc. We’ll be meeting with them for the next week every afternoon when they are out of school to share more about God’s special plan and purpose for their lives.
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” – John 14:18 (ESV)
Saturday, March 5
Into Africa: driving toward Mulanje Massif with people (always) walking the roads. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)
The team arrived safely after 25 hours of flying and another 4-5 hours of driving. Duncan greeted us. As did some rain, which is good for this drought-stricken place.
Friday, March 4
Here we GO! The team gathered at JFK in New York City for a morning flight that will put us in South Africa on Saturday. Praying for uneventful travel as we head back to Malawi.
Pastor Duncan Nyozani excitedly reported the Malawi weather to us on Sunday, Feb. 28. “It has rained so much yesterday for the first time,” he wrote. “But most of maize crops dried up. We will see (about) planting other crops. Keep on praying for us.”
Climbing For Christ has been lifting for some time Duncan’s Searchlight Ministries and the desperate needs found in southern Malawi. The needs are due, in part, to poverty (one of the planet’s 15 poorest nations), HIV (ninth-highest infection rate in the world), and weather (flooding last year followed by drought that have the nation on the brink of famine).
In addition to PRAY
ing, we also have GIVE
n and GO
God has provided through Climbing For Christ in many ways: From the orphans C4C has helped since October 2009 (sponsoring through Project 1:27 since early 2010) to the building of a Searchlight church across the border in Mozambique to the building of a new Mothers & Babies Clinic that serves scores of women to sending teams in 2010, 2011, 2014 and now 2016.
New Mothers & Babies Clinic. (Photo by Duncan Nyozani)
Mission: Malawi 2016 has several important goals:
- Loving and teaching the children at Duncan’s orphanage.
- Dedicating the new Mothers & Babies Clinic.
- Encouraging the local church through the Word, prayer, and His provision of funds to buy food.
- Meeting guides and porters participating in evangelism training with our new Mulanje Massif Chapter.
- Answering divine appointments. His will be done!
I ain’t no wise man
But I’m no fool
I believe that mother nature
Has taken us to school
Maybe we just took too much
And put too little back
It isn’t knowledge
It’s humility we lack
– Don Henley, “Praying for Rain”